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Controversies Surrounding the Reception of Valī “Dakhanī” (1665?–1707?) in Early Tażkirahs of Urdu Poets


Early Urdu poetry, at the time called Reḳhtah, forms a remarkable example of the circulation of ideas in early modern India. Scholars trace its modern form to the reception in early eighteenth-century Delhi of a Southern literary idiom, usually called Dakhanī that is itself the result of repeated waves of migration from North India to the Deccan. While the historical origins of Urdu occupy an arena of lively scholarly debate, its later historical and literary importance is quite clear. By the start of the nineteenth century a highly literary and Persian-inflected form of Urdu would swiftly replace Persian in elite circles. Thus we have a historically significant moment at which the confluence of the vernacular and the cosmopolitan created a new cosmopolitan vernacular, however this process remains understudied.

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2 For an account of the controversies surrounding the origins and nomenclature of Urdu see Faruqi, Shamsur Rahman, “A Long History of Urdu Literary Culture, Part 1: Naming and Placing a Literary Culture,” in Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, (ed.) Pollock, Sheldon (Berkeley, 2003), pp. 805863; and Bangha, Imre, “Rekhta: Poetry in Mixed Lanugage, The Emergence of Khari Boli Literature in North India,” in Before the Divide: Hindi and Urdu Literary Culture, (ed.) Orsini, Francesca (Hyderabad, 2010), pp. 2183.

3 Faruqi, “A Long History of Urdu,” pp. 849–850.

4 Pollock, Sheldon, “The Cosmopolitan Vernacular,” Journal of Asian Studies, 57 (1998), i, pp. 711.

5 Significantly this relies on one source, written in 1794, some seventy years after the events it describes. The author claimed to have this information from the poet Ḥātim, who was one of Valī's early admirers in Delhi. Hamdānī Muṣḥafī, Ġhulām's Tażkirah-e Hindī: A biographical Anthology of Urdu poets, (ed.) ‘Abdul Ḥaq Ṣāḥib, Maulavī (Aurangābād, 1933, Anjuman Taraqqī-e Urdū), p. 80. We will take up the problems associated with the information provided by Muṣḥafī in our forthcoming publication Welcoming Valī: Tracing the Influence and Memory of Valī Dakhanī in Early Urdu Culture.

6 For a discussion of the dates of Valī, see Ḥasan Hashmī, Sayyid Nurul, Kulliyāt-e Valī (Lucknow, 1982) Foreword, and also, p. 5; and Faruqi, Shamsur Rahman's earlier work, Early Urdu Literary Culture and History, (New Delhi, 2001), pp. 129131. The existence of a manuscript with all his presently known poetry dated 1708 suggests that his corpus reached completion at this time, but the actual date of his death remains unsure.

7 See Faruqi, “A Long History of Urdu,” and also Petievich, Carla, “Making ‘Manly’ Poetry: The construction of Urdu's ‘golden Age’,” (ed.) Barnett, Richard. Rethinking Early Modern India. (New Delhi, 2002), pp. 231238.

8 See Faruqi and Petievich, quoted above. Also, Pritchett, Frances, “A Long History of Urdu Literary Culture, Part 2,” in Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, (ed.) Pollock, Sheldon (Berkeley, 2003), pp. 864911.

9 Pritchett, “A Long History of Urdu, Part 2,” pp. 864–865.

10 For this problem in terms of current debates about the origins of Hindi and Urdu see Faruqi, Early Urdu Literary Culture; Bangha, “Rekhta: Poetry in Mixed Lanugage”, pp. 24–29; and McGregor, Stuart, “The Progress of Hindi, Part 1” in Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, (ed.) Pollock, Sheldon (Berkeley, 2003), pp. 912916.

11 For this point, see Phukan, Shantanu, “The Rustic Beloved: Ecology of Hindi in a Persianate World,” Annual of Urdu Studies, 15 (2000), p. 5.

12 For this point, see Pauwels, Heidi. “Religious Literature in NIA Languages,” in Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism, (eds) Jacobson, Knut A., Basu, Helene, Malinar, Angelika, et al, vol. 2 (Leiden, 2010), pp. 201224.

13 Faruqi, “A Long History of Urdu,” pp. 819–843.

14 Important in this movement were the invasions of the Khilji and Tuġhlaq period, and especially Muḥammad Tuġhlaq's transplant of his capital to the newly renamed Daulatābad (formerly Devgirī), see Hashmi, N. H., Makers of Indian Literature: Wali, (New Delhi, 1986), pp. 79.

15 The constant back and flow of trade, pilgrimage networks, and religious orders is an important and relatively ignored aspect of the formation of the idiom.

16 Faruqi, “A Long History of Urdu,” compare, p. 807 with p. 847.

17 Manuscript copies of Valī's dīvān number well over a hundred by the most conservative estimate, see Faruqi, Early Urdu Literary Culture, p. 129.

18 Chandra, Satish, Parties and Politics at the Mughal Court (Delhi, 2002), p. 214.

19 Pritchett, “A Long History of Urdu, Part 2,” p. 881.

20 Muḥammad Ḥusain Ᾱzād, Ᾱb-e Ḥayāt (Lahore, 1907), p.83. Accessed, August 12, 2013.

21 The edition we have used Illåhī, Maḥmūd (ed), Mīr Taqī Mīr, Tażkirah-e Nikāt al-Shu’arā (Lucknow, 1984), pp. 9093. The editor consulted several manuscripts, including one preserved in Anjuman Taraqqī-e Urdū, dated 1172 ah, which was commissioned by Sayyid ʻAbd-al Valī ‘Uzlat (description ib. pp. 18–19), from which he gives the additions between square brackets. Another manuscript, originally produced in Sūrat in 1778 is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. References to words found only in the Paris manuscript are in parenthesis in this edition. We have preserved the parentheses and square brackets in our quotes to indicate these manuscript variations, where they are significant since ‘Uzlat was a Dakhanī poet himself and his bayāẓ was the chief source of Mīr's section on Dakhanī poets.

22 Naim, C. M., Żikr-i Mir, The Autobiography of the Eighteenth-Century Mughal Poet, Mir Muḥammad Taqi ‘Mir’ (New Delhi, 1999), p. 8.

23 Naim, Żikr-i Mir, p. 184.

24 Mīr, Nikāt al-Shu‘arā, p. 61.

25 Naim, Żikr-i Mir, p. 6.

26 Mīr, Nikāt al-Shuʻarā, p. 91.

27 Compare Faruqi, “A Long History of Urdu, Part 1”, pp. 845–847; Pritchett, “A Long History of Urdu, Part 2”, pp. 866–869.

28 ‘Alī Bilgrāmī, Ġhulām, Ma’āṡir al-Kirām, ‘Ḥaq, Abdul, (ed.) (Ḥyderābād, 1913), pp.198199.

29 Mīr, Nikāt al-Shuʻarā, p. 61.

30 Mīr confesses that his disposition does not incline towards investigating the history of Dakhanī in his introduction, Nikāt al-Shuʻarā, p. 23.

31 Ġhulām ‘Alī Bilgrāmī, Ma’āṡir al-Kirām, p. 227. Also see Riḥānah Khātūn, (ed), Sirāj al-dīn ‘Ali Ḳhān Ᾱrzū, Muṡmir (Karachi, 1991), p. 6.

32 Mīr, Nikāt al-Shuʻarā, p. 93.

33 Naim, Żikr-i Mir, p. 177.

34 Naim, Żikr-i Mir, p. 177.

35 Mīr, Nikāt al-Shu‘arā, p. 14.

36 Naim, Żikr-i Mir, pp. 13–15.

37 Naim, Żikr-i Mir, p. 184.

38 ‘Alī Bilgrāmī, Ġhulām, Ma’āṡir al-Kirām Ḥaq, ‘Abdul, (ed) (Ḥyderābād, 1913), pp. 198199.

39 Naim, Żikr-i Mir, p. 142 fn 408.

40 Naim, Żikr-i Mir, pp. 141–142, latā’if no. 48.

41 Faruqi, “A Long History of Urdu”, pp. 845–849.

42 Schimmel, Annemarie, Classical Urdu Literature from the Beginning to Iqbal (Leiden, 1975), pp. 154155.

43 Faruqi, Early Urdu Literary Culture, pp. 139–140.

44 Schimmel, Classical Urdu, p. 154.

45 Schimmel, Classical Urdu, p. 150.

46 His completed works contain 403 ġhazals, but only two maṡnavī poems. Valī, Kulliyāt-e Valī, pp. 41–52.

47 Mīr, Nikāt al-Shu‘arā, p. 90. Parenthesis in quote are explanations added by authors, not in the Paris manuscript, which lacks this entire section. The last line of this note may be a dig at Ᾱzād Bilgrāmī who in preparation for writing his own tażkirah, probably Ṣarv-e Ᾱzād (completed in ah 1166, a year after Mīr completes his own work), had sent letters to Mīr's uncle, Ᾱrzū, to gather details about his life and works. Mīr would still have been living with his Uncle at the time Ᾱzād sent letters requesting information to his subjects in Delhi.

48 The manuscript copy was prepared for ‘Uzlat in ah 1172. This version has the note on Dakhanī poets as well as several entries on Dakhanī poets missing in the later dated manuscript (ah 1178) from the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. It raises the possibility that a fuller accounting of Dakhani poets was created for the version shared with ‘Uzlat, since what is missing in the later copy are the short extracts of poets from the Deccan, instead only a few are named and their verses quoted. The more substantial entries on the other Deccan poets, Valī, ‘Uzlat, Sirāj, Ᾱzād, and ‘Ᾱjiz, are common to both manuscripts.

49 Mīr, Nikāt-al Shu‘arā, p. 24.

50 Mīr famously divided Reḳhtah into six categories, four of which were macaronic in form, mixing Reḳhtah with Persian syntax or grammar. The fifth involved verbal punning, īhām, and the last combined all beneficial aspects of poetics, which Mīr claimed could all be found in his own work (Mīr, Nikāt-al Shu‘arā, p. 163). In our forthcoming publication we will comment on these criteria with regard to the selection of Valī's verses in the tażkirah.

51 Mīr, Nikāt-al Shu‘arā, p. 97.

52 Aurangābādī, Ḳhvājah Ḳhān Ḥamīd, Gulshan-e Guftār: Shuʻarā-ye Urdū Ka Qadimtarīn Tażkirah, Muḥammad, Sayyid, (ed.) (Ḥyderābād, Maktabah Ibrāhīmīya, 1929), pp. 45. On the debate of the dates see Fatehpūrī, Farmān, Urdū Shuʻarā ke Tażkire Aur Tażkirah Nigārī (Lahore, 1972), pp. 104106.

53 Mīr, Nikat al-Shu‘arā, p. 97.

54 Ḥamīd Aurangābādī, Gulshan-e Guftār, pp. 4–5.

55 A manuscript of this text is preserved in Sālār Jung Museum and Library Ḥyderābād (Catalogue of Persian mss in SJMLii 574). We have used Aurangābādī, Ḳhvājah Ḳhān Ḥamīd, Gulshan-e Guftār: Shu‘ārā-ye Urdu Ka Qadīmtarīn Tażkirah, Muḥammad, Sayyid, (ed.) (Hyderābād, 1929), pp. 812.

56 Ġhazal no. 695: Tere qad dekh ay sayyid Ma‘ālī, suḳhan fahman kī huī hai fikr ‘ālī, “Having seen your lofty stature, O Sayyid Ma‘ālī, the words of poets have been elevated”. The couplets of this ġhazal explore an important theme notable in many of Valī's poems, that the physical beauty and love of a human lover inspires the poet to also contemplate spiritual love of the Divine as well, see Kulliyāt-e Valī (Lucknow, 1982) pp. 646–647.

57 Ḥamīd Aurangābādī, Gulshan-e Guftār, p. 13.

58 Ḥamīd Aurangābādī, Gulshan-e Guftār, p. 4.

59 Ḥamīd Aurangābādī, Gulshan-e Guftār, p. 54.

60 Fatehpūrī, Urdū Shuʻarā ke Tażkire Aur Tażkirah Nigārī, p. 29.

61 Kashmīrī, Akbar Haidari, (ed), Tażkirah-e Reḳhtah Gūyān (Lucknow, 1995), Introduction, pp. 1626.

62 Gardezī, , Tażkirah-e Reḳhtah Gūyān, (Lucknow, 1995), p. 29.

63 Gardezī, Tażkirah-e Reḳhtah Gūyān, p. 163.

64 We have used the edition by Iqtidā Ḥasan: Qāʼim al-dīn ‘Qāʼim Chāndpūrī, Maḳhzan-e Nikāt, (Lahore, 1966).

65 Though partially translated by Faruqi, Early Urdu Literary Culture, pp. 136–137.

66 The editor, Iqtidā Ḥasan suggests the work was started in 1744 (1157 ah) as a bayāẓ on the basis of Chāndpūrī's dating of the death of two Urdu poets. The chronogram that dates the work to 1754, was originaly authored by Ḳhvājah Ikram, and is widely accepted by scholars. However, it seems this work was not finished at least till 1757 (1170 ah) because the notice on Ḳhvājah Mīr Dard seems to have been written in that period. The author continued to add entries to the completed manuscript (Ḥasan, (ed.), Maḳhzan-e Nikāt, pp. 20–23).

67 Ḥasan, (ed), Maḳhzan-e Nikāt, pp. 16–18.

68 Schimmel, Classical Urdu, 59; Irshraq Haque, Glimpses of Mughal Society and Culture: A study based on Urdu literature: in the 2nd half of the 18th century (New Delhi, 1992), p. 43.

69 Ḥasan, (ed), Maḳhzan-e Nikāt, introduction, pp. 27–28.

70 Mīr, Nikāt al-Shuʻarā, p. 120.

71 This suggests a different understanding of the word “Reḳhtah” than used by Mīr.

72 Qā’im, Maḳhzan-e Nikāt, pp. 21–24.

73 Valī, Kulliyāt-e Valī, pp. 407–412. A tarjīband and qaṣīdahs are included in the 1732 manuscript in the India office Library, and a muḳhammas in a manuscript dated 1796 (1211 ah) and preserved in the Idārah-e Adabiyāt-e Urdū library in Ḥyderābād; this is not a dīvān manuscript, but includes also a Ta‘bīr- and Falnāmah (book of dreams and book of omens); Āzam, Muḥammad, Valī Granthāvalī (Kanpur 1978), vol. 1, p. 53.

74 Hashmi, Makers of Indian Literature: Wali, p. 13.

75 Schimmel, Classical Urdu, p. 59.

76 Valī, Kulliyāt-e Valī, pp. 199–200, no. 198.

77 For a discussion of the importance of these terms in Ᾱrzū's work see Keshavmurthy, Prashant's “The Local Universality of Poetic Pleasure: Sirajuddin ‘Ali Khān Ᾱrzu and the Speaking Subject,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 50.27 (2013), pp. 3738.

78 Schimmel, Annemarie, Pain and Grace: A Study of Two Mystical Writers of Eighteenth-Century Muslim India, (Leiden, 1976), p. 11.

79 This multi-lingual word play is illustrated in Bedil's use use of the Persian-inflected “ham hain” in the verse quoted by Qā’im. This usage, strictly speaking the first person plural in the vernacular, is frequently used as the first singular by persons of high status, akin to the royal “we” in English. But the word “ham” in Persian means literally “same”. This suggests, in a neat demonstration of the philosophy of vaḥdat al-vujūd, with which Bedil was associated: the lover and the beloved, God and his creation, the heart and that which it seeks, “I” and “we” are one and the same.

80 For a discussion of Mīr's position in these debates see Naim, Żikr-i Mir, pp. 183–188.

81 This verse by Valī begins nā pūcho ‘ishq men josh-o ḳharosh-e dil kī māhiyāt “Do not ask in love of the condition of the intoxicated heart Qā’im, Maḳhzan-e Nikāt, p. 24.

82 See for example descriptions about the gathering of poets at his tomb during Bedil's death anniversary in Sālār Jang, Dargāh Qulī Ḳhān's, Muraqqa‘-e Dehlī, Anṣārī, Nūr al-Ḥasan, (ed.) (Delhi, 1982), pp. 3031.

83 Schimmel, Annemarie, A Two-Colored Brocade: The Image of Persian Poetry (Chapel Hill, 1992), pp. 70, 232.

84 Schimmel, A Two-Colored Brocade, p. 70.

85 Qāʼim, Maḳhzan-e Nikāt, pp. 8–9.

86 Qāʻim, Maḳhzan-e Nikāt, p. 33. Note here also the pointed use of the verse “To pick upon the faults of elders is also a fault,” which may be a dig at Mīr.

87 Aurangābādī, Rāi Lacchmī Narāyan Shafīq, Chamanistān-e Shuʻarā, al-Ḥaq, ‘Abd, (ed) (Ḥyderābād, 1928).

88 ‘Abd al-Ḥaq, (ed), Chamanistān-e Shuʻarā, p. 1.

89 ‘Abd al-Ḥaq, (ed), Chamanistān-e Shuʻarā, p. 3.

90 ‘Abd al-Ḥaq, (ed), Chamanistān-e Shuʻarā, pp. 2–3, 446–447.

91 Valī, Kulliyāt-e Valī, p.114.

92 Valī, Kulliyāt-e Valī, p. 334.

93 ‘adam could also be read as non-existence, also note a possibility of reading Indra sabhā (Indra's court) as andar sabhā (within the court).

94 Tapanchah can mean “pistol” or “slap,” in which case the “blackening” of the face, meaning “to shame,” could contrast “blacken” with rangīn, “colorful,” also, “florid, ornate,” referring to the verse. We thank Alyssa Gabbay for this suggestion.

95 This is a pun. It means world-seizer, but is also the name of the reigning emperor of the time of Valī—Emperor ‘Ᾱlamgīr/Aurangzeb.

96 Shafīq, Chamanistān-e Shuʻarā, pp. 104–106.

97 Pritchett, “A Long History of Urdu, Part 2,” p. 865.

98 A development we discuss in full in our forthcoming book.

1 We are grateful to the Simpson Center of the Humanities of the University of Washington, Seattle, to support part of this research with a grant for 2011–12. We also thank Sunil Sharma, Jameel Ahmad, Jennifer Dubrow, and Alyssa Gabbay for comments and assistance.

We follow Frances Pritchett's transliteration system in her Nets of Awareness: Urdu Poetry and its Critics (Berkeley, 1994), p. xi, because she too uses both Urdu and Persian sources.

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